Friday, May 1, 2020

Urban Adventuring - The Tale of Ujin Tohl the Viridescent- part 4





Image by Wen-M on DeviantArt

Last entry found our thief/illusionist rattled after a close call with a ruthless mercenary. Now he’s about to enter the compound of a saan (lizard man) prophet to ask him for help…

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Ujin rode slowly on his spectral steed, the bright moon revealing its wispy, insubstantial hooves trailing smoke and its gossamer mane waving in the night breeze. Up ahead a giant lizard walked towards the saan camp, the dead body strapped atop it canting to one side and then the other as it moved. 

An offering from one devotee of the God of death to another.

Ujin directed the illusory murder of crows to swoop down and in front of him then again behind, circling but not landing, flying in unison, almost hypnotically.

This wasn't an ambush, a frontal assault or a provocation, it was an invitation to parley, framed by a display of prowess and an offering of death.

Ujin sat tall, hands open, and held no weapons as he approached.

When the giant lizard reached the halfway point on the land bridge a small group of saan with a large chained ankheg approached. Ujin could also see a large number of saan with javelins and shields at the edge of the camp.

Ujin had the illusory crows swoop down and around his position, obscuring the line of sight of the saan momentarily, then sent them back to circling. 

That produced much chatter amongst the javelin wielding saan.

One approached the offering and inspected it for several minutes. Once satisfied he motioned for some others to come forward and they led it in.

The saan then motioned for Ujin to follow.

He moved forward on the bridge while the crows circled above his position, about 50 feet in the air.

When he entered the camp he was surrounded at a distance of about 20 feet by a horde of saan, all armed with shield and javelin, and carrying short swords. They moved with him together.

The camp was large and very full. Ujin saw a number of large fires burning in the camp, perhaps ten of them, and more saan than he could count. There was the occasional human as well, what looked like mercenaries for the most part, but otherwise it was all saan. They were were dark green on their backs and light green/brown on their fronts, feet and hands, unlike the varieties he had met back home. They also had tattoos, many wore bracers or arm bands, but none wore armor.. 

There were giant lizards, giant frogs and ankhegs both chained and free, roaming the area. There were also innumerable smaller lizards and frogs, the camp was not separate from the marsh, it was a part of it.

About half of the saan watched Ujin carefully, and the other half watched the circling crows.

He was led towards the center of the camp and arrived at a gathering place.

There was an elevated throne sitting in the middle with a large, roaring fire in front of the throne. There was a framework of bones behind the throne, Ujin couldn’t tell for sure but it looked like the framework was whole, it appeared that they had killed something very large and taken the skeleton. He tried to ignore it. Dozens of saan sat around the fire, and others stood and sat in the surrounding area. The body of Joven Castlebraw, tied to the giant lizard, was to the side near the throne.

On the throne sat Jal Bhains, he was wearing a necklace of silver, a ring on each hand, a blood red mace was slung in his belt and he wore a rich, dark red cloak of leather. He had many prominent scars on his body and carried no obvious weapons other than the mace.

Immediately to either side of the throne stood a pair of what Ujin could only describe as "patchwork saan", both appeared to be made up of parts of other saan sewn together by some mad archmage, they were massively muscled and their bodies were out of proportion. Ujin had never seen their like.

In front of the throne stood a line of burly saan larger than most, dressed in breastplates of steel with round metal shields and broadswords. They were all fixated on Ujin with unblinking eyes.

He stopped his phantom steed about 50 feet from the throne. All of the small animals on the ground, lizards, frogs and the like all scattered away from his mount, while all the birds in the area, save Ujin's phantasmal crows, cawed and cried in fear. He was left with a circle around him, approximately 20 feet in radius, empty of all living things other than him.

Ujin motioned and the crows circling above flew en masse down and around until they all landed inside that circle, all staring forward. Once they had all landed they began to caw and cry mightily for a short time, then Ujin lifted a hand up, clasped his fist and they all stopped making noise at once. The illusory crows all looked forward at Jal Bhains.

Ujin brought down his hands, open palmed, to his side and spoke in his clearest, most confident voice, his saan was passable but there were likely variations. His message was simple, an old prayer, “All things come to Yama in death, Yama is the resting place, the home.”

Bhains' fanged mouth drew back in what might be a smile. Ujin knew the rituals and prayers of the cult of Yama and repeated one now, again in saan. He spoke of the longing for home in a sonorous poem of prayer.

It sounded right to his ears, he knew the prayer was right...

Bhains spoke now, his voice was rough but loud and commanding.

"You speak my words and utter prayers to my god, you bring me a tribute of death, you court me like a youngling in heat, most warlocks threaten me or just offer me gold."

Ujin replied after he was sure Bhains was finished speaking.

"Jal Bhains, scourge of Bhavisyavani, usurper of Gossarak the Targg, I, Ujin Tohl the Viridescent, give tribute to you, speak your tongue and pray to your god, who is mine as well, out of respect. I am ajanabee, an outsider, I came to Bhavisyavani to find a thief who stole from my master, I am here to take back what is his and restore his lost honor."

Ujin had decided to be honest with the holy man, it would make him more convincing and if there were any magical protections in place his words would show as true.

Jal Bhains replied with a hiss.

"Your tribute is accepted, Ujin Tohl the Viridescent, a tribute of death honors me and honors Yama", he swept his hand towards the dead mercenary and the body was removed from the area.

"Now, that honor and tribute has bought you the privilege of a fast, painless death, in tribute to Yama."

Ujin contained his terror and spoke in a firm voice.

"I have come here to ask a boon, Jal Bhains."

The next sound Ujin heard was a laugh, but it was mirthless, and chilled Ujin's bones.

"And want do you wish, ajanabee?"

Ujin replied, "The man who I seek, the thief I have pursued half way around the world, his name is Imiran Shinn, some call him "the Basilisk"."

Jal Bhains sat back on his throne and hissed again, then spit, then laughed loudly.

"Shinn vexes me, I would see him dead, not steal baubles from his treasure chest."

Ujin knew this was his opening, it was now or never.

"I want a fate worse than death for this man, I trust you will one day destroy his body, I will crush his soul, his mana, his repute. Shinn is a thief, and thieves in Bhavisyavani are arrogant and vain, just like the warlocks.”

Ujin paused as he noted Bhains nodding at this last point. It was likely that many house warlocks had killed the witch doctor’s troops, he assumed there was no love lost between them.

Ujin continued, “I will steal back what he stole from my master, showing all that even my master's servant is greater than this petty thief, that his boasts and taunts are empty, and he will lose what he values more than gold and magic: power and reputation. With this gone, his men will no longer fear him, children will mock him, he will lose his heart’s desire."

Bhains sat silently and pondered Ujin's words for what felt like an eternity. Then the leader of the saan reached into a pouch and took out a handful of bleached bones. He spoke in tones too low to hear then cast the bones before him. He pondered them for many heartbeats.

"Lakshmi smiles upon you Ujin Tohl, your mission is blessed."

Ujin waited for Jal Bhains' next words.

"I will help you, but not until you prove yourself worth my aid. My men are precious to me, and my cause is all, I will not risk either on a man who cannot deliver on his boasts."

Ujin nodded, "Of course, mighty Jal Bhains, whatever you will."

Bhains laughed again, hissing and cackling, “Whatever I will, what a wonderful philosophy you have.”

There was a collective cacophony of hisses and growls, the entire camp made noise at once. Ujin wasn't sure if this was laughter or celebration. Bhains looked to his left and signaled and the patched up saan to his side stepped down to the dirt in front of the throne.

He was much bigger down from the throne.

Ujin made a circular motion with his hands and the illusory crows swirled around him like a tornado, blocking him from all vision for several heartbeats. He then sent the illusions into the air until they were swallowed by the blackness and he ended the illusion.

Bhains shouted, "Now!", the collective camp shouted and screamed, and the patchwork saan lurched forward towards Ujin. The phantasmist turned his spectral steed and bolted until he was a short distance away, the creature moved comparatively slowly so it gave him a brief window to act.

His opponent was some sort of construct, so his normal stock of illusions might not even work on the creature. Did it have a mind to deceive? He didn't want to risk a useless spell and lose his advantage so he went with the simplest thing he could think of. The creature had eyes, so…

Ujin took out a pinch of split dried peas and rubbed them between his fingers, then snapped them while speaking the words, "stěna mlhy.”

The world went grey as a dense fog filled up an area that stopped just before Jal Bhains' throne.

The creature emitted a strained moan and stopped in its tracks, blinded.

Ujin then reached into two pockets, from the first he drew a line with talc under one eye and from the second he drew a line with silver dust under the other, and then he spoke the words, “Skrytý nic víc”.

Suddenly the creature's form was outlined in an eldritch purple fire that only Ujin could see. He spurred on his horse and rode to one side of the grasping creature. He drew his sword and slashed at its head on the way by.

The creature howled in pain.

Ujin came around, still within the fog, and he watched as the creature gamely tried to follow the sound of Ujin's horse.

But the phantasmist's horse made no sound.

The creature wailed in anger, the camp hooted in excitement.

Ujin made another silent pass and struck again, this time he slashed the thing on its shoulder, eliciting another howl of pain. Ujin could hear the hoots, hisses and cries of the saan outside of the fog. They were desperate to know what was happening inside, all they could do was listen.

Ujin circled the hapless thing a few times, he was putting on a show, building the anticipation, the patchwork man lunged wildly in entirely the wrong direction, and Ujin came up behind him and leaned down as he passed, scoring another hit, this time on its upper leg, leading it to scream and stumble, falling to one knee.

He then rode by and struck it a solid blow on its chest, tearing it open and sending flesh flying.

The creature cried out in agony, bleeding from multiple wounds and ready to fall over. It was balanced on one knee, with both hands on the ground.

Ujin knew it was time to finish him off. He rode behind the creature, dismounted from his phantom steed and crept up behind it, its blood pooling on the ground all around them. He dispelled the fog so Bhains could see the killing blow. He pulled back his niuweidao and stabbed the creature in the back, the sword piercing its heart. 

The creature emitted a low moan and collapsed, a heap of patchwork flesh.

Ujin turned to the throne and bowed his head to Jal Bhains, awaiting his reaction.

The witch doctor was silent, his men were not, they screamed and howled at the sight of the dead monster. Unbeknownst to Ujin many of them had felt the fury of the golem, it was immune to non-magical weapons and Bhains had used it to mete out punishment many times. The saan howled and hissed in joy.

Bhains stood up suddenly and swept his hand across the air, cutting off all sound as everyone n the compound stopped celebrating.

Bhains looked directly at Ujin.

"Ujin Tohl, those golems were given to me by Lyrr Tashun, Warlock of House Bontill, as a gift in exchange for leaving House Bontill's caravans and hunting parties alone."

Ujin waited, hands on his niuweidao as the blood from the blade dripped on the wet ground; the second golem’s vacant eyes seemed to be watching him.

"He is a fool, this warlock Lyrr Tashun, he should have met me with strength or taken me by cunning, instead he paid me off like a fisherman."

Jal Bhains spit on the ground and hissed. Then he turned to a saan standing near his throne and spoke, pointing at the corpse of the golem.

"Wrap that thing in House Bontill colors and release it so it washes up near the city gates. Then mount a raid on the next House Bontill caravan, kill half the caravan and take half the gold and valuables. Let them know who you are."

The lizard man nodded and disappeared.

"You have proven your worth Ujin Tohl, what is your demand?"

Ujin responded, "A small number of your men to create a distraction while I steal back what was stolen."

Jal Bhains smiled a long, wicked smile.

“You could hire men for this with gold, there are many who would agree to this.”

Ujin nodded, “Yes Jhal Bhains, but gold does not buy loyalty, I know no one here in Bhavisyavani, and I don’t trust that men I would hire would not betray me.”

Jhal Bhains laughed again, “Did the man you sent in on the lizard betray you?”

Ujin now grinned, “He tried.”

Many of the lizard men laughed at this, including Jal Bhains. Then the witch doctor spoke.

“And you trust me not to betray you?”

“If you agree to my terms, I trust you to uphold your side of the bargain, Yama watches over both of us, and your men are loyal to the death, yes?”

Bhains nodded. 

"My men are not welcome in the city."

Ujin nodded, "Are they all known on sight?"

Bhains shook his head, "Some, many, but most by colors or by markings, all my men are tattooed with the symbol of Yama."

Ujin looked at one of the lizard men and saw a small tattoo on its chest, a black water buffalo on a copper colored background.

"That can be concealed easily."

Bhains added, "Yes, but it can also be easily revealed, unless they are drunk or asleep the guards will check at least one of the group, and you will be discovered."

Ujin realized he had memorized offensive spells for this mission, not stealth spells, so he had fewer options.

"I could use magic to conceal the identities of your men, but that runs the risk of being discovered as magic. I have no idea how they process entrants who are potentially dangerous."

Bhains laughed, "With an axe."

His men all laughed at that, lizard men laughter was filled with hissing, it oddly made Ujin want to laugh along. 

Ujin pondered the problem for a few moments and then made a suggestion, "Another option is to bring in your men as is, claim they were taken in combat and to be questioned or imprisoned."

This caused an even louder and more widespread wave of laughter amongst the men.

"They don't capture us ajanabee, they slaughter us."

Ujin saw the problem. Then he had an idea.

"What if you were an important group, an envoy sent to recruit other saan, and you were intercepted and captured. Everyone is bound and escorted to be questioned. That might make you worth questioning."

Bhains nodded, the idea had merit. 

"But how would they know that the men were envoys? They might not believe you."

Ujin was inspired and spoke again.

"I can create a note in special script, if that note is read by anyone other than the intended recipient it confuses them. If pressed I could claim I found the note with your men and realized your mission. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but if it does…”

Bhains looked excited by the suggestion.

"Just words, anyone reading the words makes the magic work? What happens?”

“Sometimes they wander away, sometimes the become enraged, that us why it’s a last ditch solution”

“It will work on anyone?”

Ujin replied, "Yes, for all but the intended reader."

"Can you write this script now?"

"No, I must prepare to do so with special ink, I can do this in the city as my supplies are there and then return."

Jal Bhains looked disappointed, "Have you any of this magical script with you now?"

Ujin nodded, "Yes, I have a tattoo, if anyone reads it the magic works on them. It's meant to be a kind of last ditch protection if I am ever captured or searched."

Ujin was uncertain how much he should share with Bhains, but he was at a disadvantage, and he didn’t want to risk being caught in a lie.

Bhains became animated, "I must see this work, show me!"

Ujin demurred, "The magic can make a target violent, or helpless, your power… if you were ensorcelled you would endanger all your men."

Bhains spoke in rapid fire words and a lizard man was brought forward and secured with ropes. Bhains was animated with the possibility.

"Can it do permanent damage, can it kill?"

Ujin shook his head, "No, the effects are temporary, if not intense."

Bhains smiled, "Proceed then."

Ujin pulled back his armor and revealed the script tattoo on his chest.

The selected saan stood and read the script, appeared to list from side to side, glassy eyed and unfocused, then began to wander off into the distance.

Jal Bhains was pleased.

“I must have such a tattoo on my body!”

Ujin nodded, “Of course Jal Bhains, but I will have to go back to the city, rest for the evening and return tomorrow.”

Ujin did not want to wait an additional day, the longer he waited the greater the chance that he would be discovered by his target. However, he did not want to anger Bhains, and there could be advantages to being in his good graces. He would wait another day.

Arrangements were made to escort Ujin back to a spot near the city, he grabbed his giant spider along the way, dispelling the phantom steed to the relief of his escort, the creature panicked small animals but it still put off the saan. 

Ujin met no particular resistance at the city gate, he paid his toll, claimed he had been out hunting unsuccessfully, and returned to the inn to sleep and rememorize spells.

He returned to the pre-arranged spot the next evening on his giant spider and was escorted back to the camp, this time he was taken to a large tent further back in the camp and found Jal Bhains waiting. The tent was lit with low lying torches and was strewn with pillows and mats. The only occupants of the tent were Jal Bhains, four large and armored saan, a man with a staff Ujin had not seen the last time he was here and two other unknown men with swords.

The man was clad in a layered silver and white jacket and silver pants, all of leather with symbols inscribed, and leather boots. Red and black feathers trimmed his arms and shoulders. His face sported a prominent tattoo of a silver horn on a black background. He carried a large staff and had a ring on his left hand. When Ujin looked at the staff its surface appeared to… move. He was flanked by two men naked but for loincloths with strange script tattoos on their chests and carrying short swords. 

And behind Bhains sat a coiled up dragon, it was olive in color like none that Ujin had ever seen. He surmised that this must be one of the swamp dragons he had heard of. It took up the back half of the tent.

Bhains motioned for Ujin to enter.

“You have returned, I am pleased. Ujin Tohl the Viridescent, meet my associate Jimnir the Garnet, formerly of House Horn.”

Ujin bowed his head in a respectful gesture. Jimnir the Garnet did the same.

Jimnir was unavailable yesterday, but he is here today, and before we continue I would have him cast a spell to ensure that you were being honest with me.”

Ujin had expected that this might happen, so he assented immediately.

Jimnir took out a copper coin and pressed it to his forehead while pointing at Ujin, he whispered the words, “Egy érme a gondolatok” and concentrated.

Jal Bhains spoke, “Why do you need my men?”

Ujin replied, “To cause a distraction while I steal back an item that Imiran Shinn stole from my master.”

Jimnir nodded to Jal Bhains.

Jal Bhains spoke again, “Will the tattoo you give me harm me, and will it work as you told me yesterday?”

Ujin nodded, “No it will not harm you, and yes it will work as I said.”

After a moment Jimnir nodded again.

The shaman smiled.

“Now”.

Ujin motioned towards a group of pillows and the men sat across from each other. Jimnir the Garnet sat nearby, hand on his shifting staff, and the four armored saan stood in a circle around Ujin, swords out.

Ujin took no notice of them.

He took out a small pot of specially prepared ink and a sharpened bone stylus.

“This will hurt”, Ujin looked directly at the shaman, “a lot. And once I start I can’t stop.”

Jal Bhains spit on the ground, “Go ahead, I am ready.”

Ujin nodded, “Where do you want the tattoo?”

Jal Bhains pointed to his chest.

“And what do you want it to say?”

The witch doctor paused and spoke in common, “Glory to Yama”.

Ujin nodded, “An excellent choice, and who do you want to be able to read it without consequence?”

Bhains paused for a moment, “No one.”

Ujin shook his head, “The magic does not work that way, I’m afraid, the words have to be readable by someone, or some group of people.”

Bhains did not hesitate, “Followers of Yama.”

Ujin nodded in approval, “I will make it so.”

Ujin began to hum words over and over quietly as he dipped the bone stylus into the ink, “Maska dopisů, prozrazují oči ...” He then picked a spot on Bhains’ chest and pushed in the needle.

To his credit, the saan winced but made no sound.

Ujin worked slowly at first but after about ten minutes he found his rhythm and was forming the first recognizable symbol.

“Maska dopisů, prozrazují oči ...“

It took Ujin approximately an hour to finish off the script, when he was done it looked better than he had hoped. 

Jal Bhains stood up and a mirror was brought to him. He admired the script, then waved his hand and a saan left the tent and returned with a bound human prisoner. The prisoner was brought forward and shown the tattoo. The man looked at the script and shook his head, then he snarled, and lunged forwards towards the guard closest to him. The other guard ran him through with a sword before he even reached him, and the prisoner slouched, then fell.

“Yama smiles on you Ujin Tohl, you are a man of your word, and so am I.“

Jal Bhains waved his hand and the four armored saan came forward.

“These are four trusted men“, a fifth, unarmored and carrying a dagger, appeared beside them.

“And this is a young shaman under my direction, he will also accompany you.“

Ujin replied, “Most generous of you, Jal Bhains, I must rest for the night so I can pen the note that we need in case we are challenged at the gate. We can leave in the late morning.“

Jal Bhains spoke to an assistant and Ujin was directed to a private tent, with a pair of guards outside. Bhains arrived a few moments later along with servants carrying food, and the two men, along with Jimnir the Garnet, talked for several hours about the city, politics, religion, magic and other various topics of interest. Ujin filled in the saan on life to the north of the city, and they shared a few laughs at his expense.

The night wore on, and the men finally parted company just before midnight so Bhains could lead his men in prayer. Ujin decided to join them, and kneeled in front of a huge firepit, roaring and glowing, as the holy man prayed to their god of death, and a sea of emerald saan bowed in supplication.


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Stats for Jimnir the Garnet (pictured above)

Jimnir the Garnet – Human MU 7
S: 10 I:18 W:9 D:10 C:9 C:15 HP: 18
AC: 7, MV: 12”, AL: NE, Deity: Yama 
SD: +3 on all saves

Weapons: Staff

Charmed Monster [10% chance per week of breaking charm}: (2) Wererats, AC:6, HD: 3, NA: 1, DA: 1-8 (sword), SA: Surprise on 1-4, SD: +1 or better weapon to hit.

Charmed Monster [25% chance per week of breaking charm]: black dragon, AC: 3, HD: 6, HP: 18, NA: 3, DA: 1-4,1-4,3-18, SA: Breath Weapon) 

Mount: Giant Lizard (Grum, AC:5, MV: 15”, HD: 3+1, NA: 1, DA: 1-8, AL:N, S:L15’, SA: 20 – double damage)

Spells [4/3/2/1]
1st level: burning hands, comprehend languages, jump, magic missile, mending, shield
2nd level: clairaudience, clairvoyance, ESP, levitate, shatter
3rd level: gust of wind, Leomund's Tiny Hut, monster summoning 1, slow
4th level: charm monster, fire charm, wall of fire

Magic items: 
Staff of Mouths (30)
The staff of mouths is 5’ long and has a cluster of carved wooden mouths in high relief on the upper end of the staff. Whenever a successful "to hit" is made with the staff, if the wielder commands, in addition to 1-6+2 damage the victim will have 1-3 of these "mouth’s" detach from the staff and attach to them (an oft found command word is “consume”). Each mouth drains blood at the rate of 2 hp per round until destroyed, they have 5 hp each and have an AC of 5. The staff will regrow mouths until 100 have been generated then it will crumble to dust, it will be found with 100-(2d6) mouths remaining. 

Ring of protection +3

Potions of: animal control (amphibians, reptiles, fish), extra healing, polymorph self

Scroll: monster summoning III (10%F/5%RH), Bigby's Interposing Hand (10%F/5%RH), teleport (10%F/5%RH)

Scroll: Invisible Stalker (25%F/15%RH), Nozzenur the Malignant’s Chain of the Damned (35%F/25%RH)*

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